Full Review: Star Wars Celebration in Orlando, FL

And now for something completely different… Sort of.  Disney owns Star Wars so I suppose this counts.  This post is about Star Wars Celebration.

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Star Wars Celebration at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, FL

If you’ve read any more than one of my posts you might have figured out that I really love Star Wars.  So much, that we went to the mecca of Star Wars in Orlando in April of this year.  Held at the Orange County Convention Center (this year, some years its in California, some in Europe), Star Wars Celebration is a 4-day convention of, you guessed it, Star Wars.

Lets talk about what you can do at Star Wars Celebration.   There are so many options… Walk the floor, go shopping, go to panels and events, visit the tattoo area, visit artists alley, get celebrity autographs and pictures

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“The only fight: against the dark side. Through the ages, I’ve seen evil take many forms. The Sith. The Empire. Today, it is the First Order.”

There was so much going on that this would be an incredibly long blog post if I were to talk about everything.  One day we were on out feet for roughly 16 hours straight.  I’m going to touch on a few things that were particularly fun and have particularly interesting pictures to share.  Essentially, let this be a guide for if you’re ever at a Con and come across any of these things.

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“Utini!”

The R2-D2 Builders Club:

These guys and gals are so cool.  They build screen accurate, and not-so-screen accurate working R2-D2s and Mouse Droids.  They were all on display in their own room so you could see everyones creations.  They also host races, panels on droid building and droid building history, and are all around awesome.  While we didn’t make it to any of the panels this time around, we strolled through the Droid Builders Room with over 100 droids on display.  Really makes you want to try your hand at it (you know, if you didn’t live in a 2 bedroom apartment and had more room).

The 501st Legion of Stormtroopers:

The 501st Legion is an all-volunteer costuming organization that performs costumed charity and volunteer work.  The costumes are ridiculous.  At Celebration they had an area with some displays of costumes, helmets, photo-opportunity areas, and where a lot of the 501st hung out in costume.  It was so fun to see everyone in their costumes and to see the hard work everyone put in!

Panels:

We went to a bunch of panels.  Some better than others, but none of them disappointed.  While we couldn’t get into the larger panels, like the 40th Anniversary Panel (hosted by Warwick Davis, featuring Kathleen Kennedy), or The Last Jedi Panel (which had surprise guest Harrison Ford), we still went to as many as we could.  Well… We may have been able to get into those panels, but you had to wait overnight, sleeping on the conference center floor.   Warwick Davis (the guy who played Wicket the Ewok) was a fantastic and funny host.  The panels that particularly shined were Anthony Daniels:  40 Years with Theepio, where Warwick Davis and Anthony Daniels displayed a special type of chemistry.

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Warwick Davis and Anthony Daniels
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…Anthony Daniels as a C3PO Tape Dispenser

The Music of Rogue One:  Analysis with David Collins was one of the absolute coolest panels I have ever been to, David Collins completely broke down the score of Rogue One, talked about the themes of the score, its ties to John Williams original score – I learned so much.

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One section of seating for a panel

Finally, the Heroines of Star Wars Panel, which featured Carrie Beck, Ashley Eckstein (Ahsoka), and Tiya Sircar (Sabine) who spoke about the importance of female role models in Star Wars.  The best part of this was the sudden and surprise appearance by Daisy Ridley!  You never know whats going to happen!

Actually, at Celebration 2012, we had a surprise George Lucas appearance at the Star Wars Detours Panel – awesome!  Except no Star Wars Detours…

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Daisy Ridley, Ashley Eckstein, Tiya Sircar, Dave Filloni, and Carrie Beck

Alright, that all being said, lets talk logistics.

I will fully admit, day one logistics were all around poor.  So poor that the company that was running the con, ReedPop, issued an apology.  We waited in a 2 hour, 2 mile long line outside in Florida in the sun to get into the building.  We assume this was because of security bringing everyone through one entrance, but by the time we got to the front they just waved us through metal detectors that didn’t even seem to be on.  Every single thing was a line.  There was a constant 2 hour line to get into the Official Celebration Store, lines for panels (even overnight lines), lines to get food… LINES EVERYWHERE.  While this is my main complaint, the convention was around 70,000 people, so I would have expected some lines, but would have preferred to not wait in the sun for 2 hours to get in the building.  The following days were better, while we still waited in line we were inside, and got on the floor much faster.

There were fast passes available to get into the Celebration Store, allowing you to skip the line, but you had to run over to the store as soon as you got in when the Con opened to get one.

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Panel backsplash

For the large and medium sized panels, a wristband system was in place.  As soon as you enter the building you can choose 2 wristbands, allowing you entry into a given panel.  Once you get your wristband, you’re guaranteed a seat.  If you want a great seat you still need to get there early and queue.  If you’re okay with a mediocre seat, you can show up 5 minutes before the panel starts because you cant bear another minute of waiting in line, and walk right in.  This was done in an effort to mitigate giant lines for every single panel at all times of the day.  We got into a lot of panels, but also learned very quickly not to be picky.  For instance, we really wanted to go to Mark Hamill’s panel or the Carrie Fisher Tribute panel, but the wristbands were gone pretty fast, so we planned second and third choices.  I cant comment on the overnight campout lines because we didn’t participate, however, the 40th Anniversary Panel and the Last Jedi Panel were streamed on the convention center floor (… with some technical issues and some sound issues, but still).

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Waiting for The Last Jedi Panel to start

While I would have loved to have attended the Last Jedi Panel, watching the trailer with thousands of other fans standing on the convention center floor, in my Rey cosplay, was a moment that is pretty special to me as a Star Wars fan.  The excitement was palpable.

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Still waiting for the trailer!

Finally, I highly recommend leaving the convention for lunch instead of waiting at the food stands in the convention center.  There are 5734957430 hotels and restaurants near by, all of which will be less crowded.

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Overall, I definitely recommend going to Star Wars Celebration if it comes back to Orlando.  But, you have to be willing to go with the flow.  No more panel wristbands?  Thats okay, you get to see surprise Daisy Ridley at a different panel.  Wait in a two hour line?  Look at the awesome costumes!  You’re going to have fun, regardless of the hiccups you may encounter.  Just enjoy it.

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Disney Tips and Tricks: Footwear Edition

You might think this is a weird topic for a post.  Trust me.  It isn’t.  I have actually put a considerable amount of thought into my footwear choice at Disney.  The reason is that Disney is big.  You’re going to walk A LOT.

The Walt Disney World Resort area is made up of 4 theme parks, 2 water parks, 1 shopping area, and over 25 hotels.  According to the internet search I just did, thats over 40 square miles of Disney fun times.  Or, Disney fun roughly the size of San Francisco.

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Map of the Walt Disney World Resort area.  Its big.  Map courtesy https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/maps/

The 4 theme parks are Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom.    With a variety of ticket options, and enough time, you can manage to visit all 4 parks in a single trip.  Ticket options range from 1 day passes to 10 day passes, and you can get admission to 1 park per day, or a “park hopper” that allows you entry to multiple parks per day.  Admission to water parks is separate.

The parks themselves are big, with Magic Kingdom being the smallest park and Animal Kingdom being the largest.  Different sources quote different numbers, but I went with the sizes listed on themeparktourist.com.

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Approximate park sizes.  Sizes are courtesy http://www.themeparktourist.com/features/20140401/17257/numbers-comparison-disneys-theme-parks

What that also means is that you’re going to do a lot of walking trying to see everything.

We live in Florida and have had annual passes for a few years now (I know you’re jealous).  I’ve put more thought into what goes on my feet than is probably normal, but we walk a TON when we’re at Disney.  The max we’ve walked in a day was during Star Wars Weekends, and we (somehow) walked 13 miles around Hollywood Studios.  Thats a half marathon of walking, just to give you an indication.  On our last trip, our average daily distance was about 8 miles per day, some days being more and some less.

Getting straight to the point, you’re going to walk more than you think.  Thus, your footwear choice is something that you should put at least a little thought into.

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With the right footwear, you could be as happy as Leonardo DiCaprio.

In 5 years of Disney trips, I have yet to find an option that has left me pain free by the end of the trip, and that I didn’t find hideously ugly.  What I have found to work tremendously is a combination of Reef flip flops, Cobian flip flops, and Asics slip-ons, and swapping them out daily.  Yes, that means I have walked upwards of 8 to 10 miles in flip flops.  Yes, my feet were fine afterwards.  I actually prefer them.  These all get between a 4.5 and 5 rating (out of 5).

Here are some others I have tried (with ratings), hopefully this will help guide your search for the perfect footwear:

Sanuk yoga mat flip flops (4/5):  Actually not bad, but for some reason soap would come out of them when they got wet and that annoyed me.

Chaco Flip EcoTread (0/5):  People swear by Chacos but these were possibly the most uncomfortable shoes I have ever owned.

Merrell Sandals (3/5):  Good for walking but not cushion-ey enough to stand on my feet all day.  The sandals I own aren’t available anymore.

Minnetonka Moccasins (4/5):  These were actually pretty good, but I could only wear them 1/2 a day.

Sperry Canvas Sneakers (2/5 at Disney, 4/5 for casual wear):  I actually love these shoes and wear them all the time, but walking long distances is ridiculously painful in them, so I do not recommend them for Disney.

Seriously though, cycling through Reef flip flops, Cobian flip flops, and Asics slip-ons has really been the most pain-free trip I’ve had.

Also, what really works is stretching while I wait in line.  Seriously.  You’ll look weird.  EMBRACE IT.

So Drinking Ever After, what are your thoughts footwear at Disney?

Before you leave for your vacation, put some thought into your shoes.  Are you bringing shoes you wear every day?  How far have you walked in them?  Are they broken in?  THEY HAD BETTER BE BROKEN IN.

Trust me.  Its better to think about this before you leave then to realize, 3 days into your 7 day vacation, that your feet are killing you and you have blisters.

And really, stretching while your waiting in line is a good idea.

Disney Tips and Tricks: About being sick at Walt Disney World

On my last trip to Walt Disney World, something happened that everyone dreads on vacation.  I got sick.  I had some kind of cold-flu-coughing-runny nose-sneezing-sore throat sickness that started from about the third day of our trip and unfortunately lasted through the entire vacation.

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Being sick on vacation always sucks.  But I did learn a few things while I was there that could be helpful if the same thing happens to you.  I also made a few mistakes.  So, beginning with some things I learned about being sick at Walt Disney World:

  1.  Things like Chapstick, Advil, etc. are sold at Epcot at the Camera Center, the store that is located on the left hand side of the Epcot ball if you’re coming in from the entrance, but you have to ask at the register.
  2. Both Sudafed and Claritin are sold at the hotel gift store at Coronado Springs Resort (and probably the others, too).
  3. You can use your passholder discount to buy toiletries, including Sudafed, at the hotel gift store, giving you 20% off.
  4. Taking a morning (or afternoon, or evening) off from the parks can make a world of difference in how you feel.  I skipped Soarin’ fastpasses at Epcot in favor of sleeping in, and managed to make it through the whole vacation.  I didn’t feel 100%, but still made it to all of my favorites.
  5. Disney does have first aid stations at the parks.  While I did not visit them on this trip, I have in the past due to some kind of allergic reaction, and they were very helpful.  They also have in-room medical services, and complimentary transportation to Florida urgent care.  You can find more information here.

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And here are some things I did wrong:

  1.  I did make it through this vacation by taking multiple doses of Sudafed in a day (and Claritin too, when I had tried to convince myself it was “just allergies”), but I shouldn’t have pushed myself so hard to see everything.  I took a morning off, but an afternoon or whole day would have done me a world of good.
  2. Drinking citrus-heavy alcoholic drinks, like the Strawberry-Lemonade Moonshine from Crocketts Tavern at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort (Ole Smoky Strawberry Moonshine, Odwalla Lemonade, Wild Strawberry, and Sprite), is a HORRIBLE IDEA with a sore throat.  The drink was great though.
  3. You’re sick.  I know you’re trying to hide it from whomever you’re traveling with because you feel like you’re going to “ruin the vacation”.  But really, they understand.  People get sick.  Its better to let them know you’re not feeling well so the pace can be slowed, you can sleep in a bit, etc.

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So, is the above meme true?  Did I have a bad vacation because I was sick?  NO!  Not at all.  Should I have taken a little bit more time to sleep?  Probably.  But after I found out that many of the things I would have tried had I been home were at the parks/hotel, I did manage to feel a little better.  Those things being Sudafed/Claritin/Advil, lots of hydration (including coffee and/or tea), and sleep.  And also remembering that its not the end of the world, and trying not to let it stress me out.